DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – A top al-Qaida commander and possible replacement for Osama bin Laden was killed in an American drone-fired missile strike close to the Afghan border, a fax from the militant group he heads and a Pakistani intelligence official said Saturday.
Ilyas Kashmiri's apparent death is another blow to al-Qaida just over a month after bin Laden was killed by American commandos in a northwest Pakistani army town. Described by U.S. officials as al-Qaida's military operations chief in Pakistan, the 47-year-old Pakistani was one of five most-wanted militant leaders in the country, accused of a string of bloody attacks in South Asia, including the 2008 Mumbai massacre, as well as aiding plots in the West. Washington had offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to his location.
His death was not confirmed publicly by the United States or Pakistani officials. Verifying who has been killed in the drone strikes is difficult. Initial reports have turned out to be wrong in the past, including one in September 2009 that said Kashmiri had been killed. Sometimes they are never formally denied or confirmed by authorities here or in the United States.
But a fax from the militant group he was heading — Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami's feared "313 Brigade" — confirmed Kashmiri was "martyred" in the strike at 11:15 p.m. Friday in South Waziristan tribal region. It was sent to journalists in Peshawar.
"God willing, America, which is the 'pharaoh' of this, will soon see a revenge attack, and our real target is America," it said. The statement was handwritten written on a white page bearing name of the group, which has not previously communicated with the media.